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Town of Stratford v. Hawley Enterprises, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

August 8, 2017

TOWN OF STRATFORD
v.
HAWLEY ENTERPRISES, INC., ET AL.

          Argued February 8, 2017

          John R. Bryk, for the appellant (substitute defendant).

          Sean R. Plumb, for the appellee (plaintiff).

          Sheldon, Beach and Harper, Js.

         Syllabus

         The defendant I Co., which held a first mortgage on certain real property that was taken by eminent domain by the plaintiff town, appealed to this court from the judgment of the trial court awarding it damages for the taking. I Co. claimed that the trial court improperly determined that the town was entitled to recover back taxes owed to it on the parcel from the condemnation award. Specifically, I Co. claimed that the town was not entitled to recover the back taxes because it had failed to claim an interest in the condemnation award in the statement of compensation, as required by the statute (§ 8-129 [a] [3] and [b]) that requires a town to file a statement of compensation containing the names of all persons having an interest in the subject property, and to give notice to owners and holders of any mortgage, lien, assessment or other encumbrance on such property. Held that the trial court properly determined that the town was entitled to recover the back taxes from the condemnation award: the purpose of the notice provisions of § 8-129, which is to protect the interests of encumbrancers and landowners so that they may have an opportunity to be heard regarding the amount of the award, was satisfied, as the town, which filed the statement of compensation, had notice of it and was present at the condemnation hearing, any lack of formal notice to the town did not prejudice I Co., as it did not specify any way in which it had been harmed by the statement of compensation, and, under the circumstances of the present case, there was no merit to I Co.'s claim that a condemnee may not properly know whether to file for judicial review of the statement of compensation unless the condemnee knows, by virtue of the names listed in the statement of compensation, whether any encumbrancers may claim a portion of the condemnation award, as judicial review was sought in the present case; moreover, I Co. failed to provide any authority precluding a trial court in a condemnation action from awarding compensation from the condemnation award to a town for back taxes, and it was not improper for the trial court to have cited foreclosure law, by analogy, for the purpose of determining the priority of the town's tax lien.

         Procedural History

         Notice of condemnation of certain real property owned by the named defendant, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Fairfield, where the named defendant filed an application for the reassessment of damages; thereafter, IP Media Products, LLC, was substituted as a defendant; subsequently, the matter was tried to the court, Hon. William B. Rush, judge trial referee; judgment increasing the amount of compensation; thereafter, the court issued certain orders regarding the payment of back taxes on the property, and the substitute defendant appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          OPINION

          BEACH. J.

         The defendant IP Media Products, LLC, [1]appeals from the judgment of the trial court awarding damages to it for the taking of certain real property by the plaintiff, the town of Stratford (town). The defendant claims that the court erred in concluding that the town was entitled to recover back taxes from the condemnation award. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts, as found by the court or apparent from the file, are relevant to our resolution of this appeal. The town took a 22.44 acre parcel in Stratford by eminent domain for use as open space. In October, 2014, pursuant to General Statutes § 8-129 (a) (3), the town filed an amended statement of compensation for the taking of the property, which set the value of the property at $247, 500. The town deposited that sum with the clerk of the Superior Court. The defendant held the first mortgage on the property and the debt owed to it was approximately $360, 000. It appeared in court in response to the notice of a condemnation hearing. By agreement of the parties, $190, 000 was distributed to the defendant, and the remaining $57, 500 was retained by the clerk's office.

         Pursuant to General Statutes § 8-132 (a), the property owner[2] filed an appeal to the Superior Court and an application for review of the development condemnation award. Following an evidentiary hearing, the court issued a memorandum of decision on August 21, 2015. The court determined that the fair market value of the property was $330, 000 and awarded interest at a rate of 2 percent per annum on the difference between the taking price of $247, 500 and the evaluation by the court until the date of payment.

         The property owner filed a motion to reargue in which it requested the court to address the issue of whether the town was entitled to recover back taxes owed on the parcel from the condemnation award. In a memorandum of decision entitled ‘‘Priority of Funds on Deposit in the Clerk's Office, '' the court determined that the debt owed to the defendant exceeded the amount deposited with the clerk's office. The town, however, had claimed that the amount of $53, 988.46 should be withheld from the amount paid to the defendant and should instead be remitted to the town for payment of unpaid taxes on the property. The defendant claimed that it was entitled to all of the funds deposited with the clerk's office. The court concluded that the town was entitled to receive for payment of back taxes the amount of $53, 988.46 from the condemnation award. This appeal followed.

         The defendant claims that the court erred in concluding that the town was entitled to recover back taxes from the condemnation award. The defendant advances several arguments ...


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